18930928 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/6vsd-t179



On headed notepaper:

O. Letzgus                                                                       Buenos Aires, …..28th Sept……………..de 189  3

Casilla de Correo 1296



My dear Mother,

Your first letter, 28th Aug., has just come; – very welcome. Very glad to hear your cap came safely & that you liked it. You write that the Pater has just left.[1] When you get this he will be back again. Telegrams about cholera in various parts of Europe are not reassuring. Nevertheless I trust the Pater did a good business. It seems that several Italian steamers have arrived at Brazil with cholera on board. They are invariably given provisions & sent straight back to Europe. In former years cholera has caused such ravage in South America that the natives have a wholesome dread of it, & the precautions now taken to prevent its re-introduction are so rigorous that it is almost impossible it will ever obtain a footing. We had to spend four days in the River, – that is the ship was in the River, & we were too one afternoon when the skipper allowed us to have a swim. Fortunately we were allowed to remain on board instead of having to go to the dirty quarantine station at Martin Garcia.[2]

The papers will have told you something about the state of affairs here. A foreigner coming to South America for the first time, say by the “Magdalena”, must have formed a curious idea of these Republics. At Rio the Navy in revolt & bombarding the town. In the Argentine the whole country in turmoil.

In the streets of Buenos Aires nothing unusual is to be noticed. Shops are open, trams run, & people go about as usual. But business is at a stand-still.

It is not very easy to understand what all the trouble is about. You must know that the Argentine Republic consists of fourteen provinces. There is one Central or Federal Government at Buenos Aires with two Houses of Parliament – Senators & Deputies, but besides that each Province has its Governor & two chambers with Home Rule all round (“Unionists” are welcome to their “there you see”s). The Provinces elect their own Governor & Members, but as the elections are always manipulated, these Governors are practically at the outset nominees of the Party that happens to be in power in the Central Government, though afterwards they frequently, through motives of jealousy & such, strike out in an independent line.

The party now in power comprises several sections of moderate Republicans. Against them are arrayed the Radicals, – now in active protest. There are revolts in the Provinces of Buenos Aires, Tucuman, Santa-Fé, & Catamarca;[3] – revolts in the first place against the Provincial Authorities. Besides that there are various reports, very contradictory that all or part of the Navy is disaffected, & part of the Army. The Government has intervened in the Provinces, sometimes by arms, sometimes, but rarely, siding against the Provincial Authorities, & has just now succeeded in restoring Tucuman to order. According to latest news it wd seem that the Government will obtain the upper hand in the other Provinces too, though at first it looked as if the Radicals wd triumph. The latter have considerable support but they are scattered & disjointed, whereas the Government has acted energetically & concertedly.

Two days ago a decree was published calling out the National Guard. This is a very extreme step which has not been taken since 1880. It means that all able-bodied men between 18 & 35, born in the country, even of foreign parents, have to go to the barracks. It is not expected that arms will be given them. People say the Government wants to have them under control, knowing that the Radicals count many adherents among the young men.

This leaves many places of business almost without employees, – often without chiefs too. At Sérés’ for instance the three sons & the partner Lacaud have been called & there is no one left.[4] Three Kinch boys, – English, but born here, have had to present themselves.[5]

The Consulates are besieged with foreigners taking out their protective “papeleta”, a document stating where they were born & giving descriptive particulars of their persons.[6]

I do not think there will be any serious row now. One officer induced two torpedo-boats to escape from the dock-yard at the Tigre & try to win over the rest of the fleet. But they were pursued by another torpedo-boat & one captured after getting a shot into her boiler killing three men. The Government seems to be winning along the line.

Though I cannot do any business for the moment I shall wait here meanwhile in hopes of a speedy settlement. If Brazil is quiet first I shall go there, but I rather think Argentina will soon be quiet & things will resume their normal course.

I have seen many friends already. MacCallums are very well – the Baby all right again.[7]

No time for more. You can write to the address noted on this paper unless you get contrary news from the office.

Best love to all.



There is no occasion in the world to be uneasy. I shall keep clear of all rows.

  1. in the letter of 11th October we read that he has safely arrived in St Petersburg, via Berlin
  2. Martín García is an island in the Río de la Plata.
  3. All provinces in Northern Argentina
  4. Unable to find any information on them
  5. Sons of Robert Hall Kinch (English), of the Yacht Club, and Flora (Argentinian). From the Buenos Aires 1895 Census, their ages in 1893 were: Walter Halkett aged 26 (died in Kent in 1935, buried in Folkestone), Frank Somerville aged 22, Harold Wright aged 20, and Edgar Tudor Jordan aged 19.
  6. Noted that passports requirements were not introduced until WWI.
  7. Likely James MacCallum (merchant) and baby Doris born 1892. From Buenos Aires 1895 Census: Doris MacCallum aged 3 ½ (i.e., born around 1892 – no doubt the baby in question); parents “Diego” (probaby James) MacCallum (b ~1849 Scotland) and Emily (b ~1865, England); and baby brother Hector. On passenger manifesto sailing to Southampton from Buenos Aires in July 1895: James and FLORENCE MacCallum with daughter Doris and son Hector. See Index to People.


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John McCaldin Loewenthal: Letters Home from a Victorian Commercial Traveller, 1889 - 1895 Copyright © 2022 by Michelle Fink, Robert Boyd, Sarah Watkinson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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